Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monsoon black clouds cause panic among Hill people


With fresh landslides in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Chittagong and Moulvibazar, fear runs through residents of fresh landslides as monsoon rain lashes the hills.

Heavy monsoon rain may cause flooding across northeastern India and Bangladesh, triggering mudslides early this week, international weathermen predicts.

"An additional 75-150 mm rainfall with locally higher amounts threatens to further inundate parts of eastern Bangladesh and northeastern India," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. The additional downpours will continue the high threat for mudslides and flash flooding across the region. 

Fresh landslides cause rise of death tolls and destruction of road infrastructure, power lines and human settlements. The death toll in the hills has risen to 161.Most of the victims are from poor and indigenous communities living close to the hills. They were buried under tons of earth and mud while they were asleep at night. The landslides devoured and blocked all roads to picturesque tourist town Rangamati. 

The disaster occurred just weeks after Cyclone Mora lashed Bangladesh's southeastern coast, killing at least seven and wrecking tens of thousands of homes.Following the deadly mudslides from earlier this week, more lives and property will be at risk as heavy monsoon rain threatens to further inundate Bangladesh through this week, predict weathermen.

The hills in Chittagong region consist of sandy soil which is mixture of sand and soil, and is weak in nature, not of stone.

Roots of trees and grass growing on these hills hold the surface apparently tight but due to continuous hill cutting, felling of trees and building houses, the hills have turned naked, rifts are being created on top and their slopes.

As a result heavy rain makes the surface loose, soil melts, sand gets removed, and rifts widen which cause inevitable landslide claiming loss of lives of human beings and animals, destruction of wealth, disruption of communication, power failure and so on.

Government is the owner of hills, canals, rivers, and forest, etc. There are seven hills in Chittagong under the ownership of six government departments.

But occupying these hills illegally some vicious circles are earning huge amount of money from there. Owners of these hills are sometimes helpless to the illegal occupiers.

In 2007, after deaths of 127 persons, a committee formed under the Chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner of Chittagong submitted a report, identifying 28 reasons for landslide in hills and suggested 66 recommendations but all those are in cold storage for the last 10 years.

First published in The Asian Age, July 20, 2017

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA), is an award winning investigating journalist and is Special Correspondent, The Asian Age, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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